I can't believe it's been a year. One year since I wrote Shunt Happens. One perfectly uneventful year...in the life of a shunt. You see, while so many important things have happened this year, it's sometimes easy to overlook what has not happened. We have not made any trips to the ER. None. We have not made frantic phone calls to the pediatrician. We have not had any heartbreaking MRI results. We have not had any shunt revisions. Thank you God...
Today is a big day. One year ago today Madison had surgery to place a shunt in her brain...And here I am, a year later, feeling so completely overwhelmed with gratitude for what it meant that day, and what it continues to mean every day from now on.
Don't get me wrong....I did not want this. at. all. I fought it as hard as any Mama out there. When you find out your baby will have spina bifida, you also learn that there's a 85% chance that they will need a shunt. I held on to that 15% with everything I had. I prayed against it daily. I knew that a shunt is a very fickle thing. For some kids it works perfectly for years and years. For others it is a constant source of stress. Shunts can act up. Each time a shunt malfunctions it means more tests, more surgeries, and more hospital time. I wanted Maddie to be in the 15% that would never need one. I thought we would be. We were told that if we made it to a year without a shunt, it was 90% likely she would not need one. I held on to that. Around 7 months Maddie's head measurements took a dissapointing jog away from the normal curve. The fluid was increasing the size of her ventricles, and putting too much pressure on the brain. We knew it was a a losing battle. She had her shunt surgery at 8 months old. I was crushed. Just knowing this "thing" would be in my baby girl's head for the rest of her life was heartbreaking. And the constant worry that something might be wrong is an ever present reality to a parent dealing with a shunt. Every fever, every nap that goes too long, every upset stomach leaves you to wonder...Could it be? On this day, a year ago, I was filled with worry, fear, and anger at once again being on the wrong side of statistics. But today, all I feel is gratitude. This shunt has saved Maddie's life. It made it possible for her to continue to thrive and progress, and she would not be who she is today without it.
There are many others out there facing procedures for their little ones, that they have fought equally hard against...and my heart goes out to them. No one wants these things for their kids. But at the end of the day, if they need it, you want them to have it. You want whatever it takes to keep your baby healthy...be it a shunt, a trach, caths, braces...whatever. Once you get past the idea of this "thing" being the enemy, you will find yourself so grateful for what it means for your child. It means life. It means the ability to thrive and grow. I know I will continue to have a love/hate relationship with this shunt, but that's ok. I love when it does what it's supposed to, and I hate the idea that one day it may not. But for today, I am thankful and happy to celebrate the first of many years with a perfectly working shunt. Happy Birthday, and here's to many more!